Men’s Soccer: Wildcats fail to conquer in-state foe

Rohan Nadkarni, Assistant Sports Editor

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It might be time to remove DePaul from the non-conference schedule.

For the second straight year, No. 18 Northwestern (6-1-2) fell to its in-state rival, this time suffering a 2-0 defeat at home Wednesday. Alex Aguilar scored both goals in the second half to secure the win.

The Blue Demons (3-5-0) also shut the Wildcats out 4-0 last season, which happened to be the last regular season loss NU suffered.

“We were flat tonight,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “One hundred  percent goes to DePaul. They were the better team tonight. They were better coached and they had a better gameplan.”

The box score reflected the Cats’ lethargic effort on a windy night at Lakeside Field. DePaul outshot NU in both halves, ultimately finishing with a 12-6 advantage, pulling away significantly in the second half.

The teams matched each other evenly in the opening frame, with the Blue Demons barely outshooting the Cats 4-3. Sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller stopped both shots that reached him, including an impressive one-handed jab at a shot headed toward the top of the goal.

NU’s best offensive chance came near the end of the first half, when a shot from the left corner seemed to fool DePaul goalie Eric Sorby before he made the save. Sorby finished the game with two saves, picking up one in each half.

But for the most part, the Blue Demons held the Cats’ offensive attack in check.

“They were able to match up with us in the middle, kind of like a matchup zone,” Lenahan said. “That really kind of stopped us from getting the ball in the middle. (It was) that compounded with I don’t think we had the usual energy we had the last few games.”

NU’s offense, which entered the game leading the Big Ten in assists, instead relied on more individual attacking that could not break the DePaul defense.

In the second half, the Blue Demons picked up the tempo, notching eight shots on goal while once again holding the Cats to three.

In the 65th minute, Aguilar scored the first goal of the game when he caught Miller out of position on a run up the right side of the box. Aguilar’s shot from about 40 feet out quieted the crowd of 2,981.

After NU picked up its urgency on the offensive end, DePaul managed to score another goal after a defensive breakdown.

In the 76th minute, NU’s failed attempt to clear the ball gave Aguilar possession and a clear path to the goal down the left side of the field. Miller rushed out of goal to challenge the shot with his feet, but Aguilar easily won the battle and iced the game for DePaul, leaving Miller visibly frustrated with his defense.

“(Aguilar) made two great plays,” Lenahan said. “He’s scored four or five goals against us in the last two years.”

Both teams played with an edge throughout the match, forcing the referees to hand out four yellow cards. NU associate head coach Neil Jones even picked up a warning in the first half from the bench.

The loss marked the halfway point of the season for the defending Big Ten champions, who now have nine games remaining in the season. The Cats continue their season on Sunday, when they travel to East Lansing, Mich. to resume conference play against Michigan State.

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